WOODBRIDGE >> The last high school basketball hurrah for the state’s best players in the 53rd annual JCC Schoolboy/Schoolgirl Classic was to be bittersweet. However, the East girls All Stars and the Connecticut boys All-Stars made it heavier on the sweet as both teams won Sunday at the JCC of Greater New Haven.
In the girls game, Alyssa Velles nailed a 3-pointer and two clutch free throws as the West’s Emma McCarthy missed hers and the East picked up a 72-71 triumph. In the boys game, the Connecticut All-Stars routed the New Jersey All-Stars 118-92.
For the East, Career’s Tanaya Atkinson, who is headed to Temple, won Most Valuable Player honors scoring 16 points. In the boys game, Ian Gardener scored a game-high 23 points to capture MVP honors.
“This was just a fun game,” he said. “I just wanted to show my talent, there were a lot of great players on the floor.”
Cromwell’s Janelle Harrison, who is headed to Hartford, had a game-high 18 for the East. Sarah Veilleux had 10, Velles had seven for the East, and added Corrine Williams had 16 and Shyla Osmond had 13 for the West.
Velles nailed a 3-pointer to put the East up one with under a minute in the fourth. Then after a West basket to put the East down one again with 6.3 seconds left, Velles was inexplicably fouled and calmly nailed two at the line.
“I was wondering why she was fouling me with seven seconds left,” Velles said. “But, whatever, I know I’m a good free throw shooter, I knew I would knock them down.”
After Lauralton Hall’s Carly Fabbri missed a potential game-winner, her high school teammate McCarthy cleaned up the mess and was fouled by Harrison.
“I’m not going to lie, I thought (Emma) was going to make both of them,” Harrison said. “The first one I thought she would tie. For her to miss both I felt good because I would’ve felt like I lost the game for us.”
Both shots from the charity stripe, taken with no time on the clock, rimmed out. Despite the finish, McCarthy, who is going to Fairfield University, was in good spirits.
“It’s cool being in this environment,” she said. “It’s small, closed in and we’re playing the game we all love.”
Atkinson, Velles and Harrison were just a few of the seven Division I players in the girls game. West coach Amanda Forcucci said girls basketball is alive and well.
“They definitely respect the game,” she said. “I love coaching kids that respect the game.”
In the boys game, Hillhouse’s Raiquan Clark had 18 and Crosby’s Tyshon Rogers, Central’s Tyler Ancrum and Bunnell’s Isaac Vann each had 16 points and are undecided.
Clark, who is undecided, too, said he will make a decision soon and will most likely prep.
The boys led from the onset and never trailed in the second half. As New Jersey clanked 3-pointer after 3-pointer, Gardener and Co. controlled the boards, slammed down dunks in transition and Providence-bound Paschal Chukwu swatted away eight shots. Coach Levy Gillespie Sr. was impressed.
“With their talent level you show them a couple of things,” he said. “And in a game like this, the way they play and how they play is what makes the game.”